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CEO Activism: The Risks, Rewards and Business Implications

  • Urbana Civic Center 108 East Water Street Urbana, IL, 61801 United States (map)

CEO Activism: The Risks, Rewards and Business Implications

It’s no secret: Americans are living and working in a highly politicized climate. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore societal issues that impact the very people who are not only our friends, family and neighbors, but also our current and potential customers. What are CEOs to do? In June 2016, public relations powerhouse Weber Shandwick and KRC Research released research about the American public’s awareness of and attitudes toward CEOs speaking out on important societal issues. Weber Shandwick refreshed their research in 2017 to see if perspectives on CEO activism changed over the past year. Join us for this timely talk for a look this research and how the American public overall perceives CEO activism, and how it relates to your bottom line, even right here in our community.

About the speaker:

Stefanie Santos McLeese is an independent public relations advisor who's been running her virtual PR firm for seven years, after spending eight years in a variety of corporate communications roles for national and global organizations. She cut her teeth in the industry by serving as the internal and executive communications manager at the National Office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving where she spearheaded the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., served as the speechwriter and advisor to the organization’s national president, and launched a bilingual, nationwide media campaign educating Latino parents on the effects of underage drinking on the adolescent brain. Nissan North America recruited Stefanie to join their global internal communications team where she managed all strategic communication needs for the 1,000-employee campus in Irving, Texas and served as the communication advisor and speechwriter to the president and vice-president for Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation. She also managed philanthropic giving for Nissan’s South Central Region office, and co-managed the Nissan Sentra “job one” media tour in Auguascalientas, Mexico. Stefanie went on to work as the communications advisor to the top-producing business unit for EnCana Oil and Gas, USA, her last stop in corporate before launching her independent practice.

As the owner and CEO of Santos McLeese, LLC, Stefanie works both as a freelance public relations advisor to provides strategic PR, marketing and communications support to businesses and organizations on the local, regional and national level, and also provides a full-service, PR firm experience to clients who need more robust services. She works independently with her own portfolio of clients and also as a subcontractor when larger PR firms need her expertise to help add value to their clients’ projects. Stefanie helps organizations identify and connect with their target audiences to achieve business objectives through strategic, savvy public relations and communications campaigns.

Some of the brands she’s help support include: Lodgic Everyday Community, University of Illinois - Gies College of Business, Archer Daniels Midland, Carus Corporation, NBA Hoop-It–Up, Southern Methodist University Athletics, Tim Hortons, Hyundai, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Americans for Fair Taxation, Easter Seals, United Way of Dallas, Leon Capital Group, Carus Corporation, Kosmos Energy, Devon Energy, Holland Services, American Association of Professional Landmen and Celanese Chemical.

She holds a B.S. in Public Relations and Journalism from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas and is a 2017 graduate of Leadership Illinois. She serves on several local boards, including: Central Illinois Public Relations Society of America; Executive Club of Champaign County; and Monticello Theatre Association. She volunteer coaches two  Stephen’s Family YMCA basketball teams where her kids play. She and her Monticello-native husband, Zach, relocated from Texas to central Illinois in June 2015 and live in a busy home with three children all under age six.